Patella Tendon Rupture

What is the Patella tendon?

knee tendonsThe Patella is a bone in knee often referred to as the kneecap.  The kneecap is a bony shield that protects the joint from impact.  The patella is held in place by two tendons, the top side of the patella is attached to the quadriceps tendon and the lower side is the patella tendon. The patella tendon attaches the kneecap to the larger bone of the lower leg called the Tibia.

Symptoms of a Patella Tendon Rupture

xray patella tendon ruptureRupturing the patella tendon is quite painful.  There will be an initial audible popping noise and sensation with the knee.  Immediately, you will know something is wrong from the pain and the difficulty in straightening out the knee.  The Patella will still be attached to the quadriceps tendon and will be pulled up higher causing a visual deformity when the quadriceps are used.  This deformity will prevent the leg from extending properly.  A rupture of the patella tendon will make it difficult to stand if possible, at all due to knee instability.

Causes of Patella Tendon Rupture

A rupture of the patella tendon requires a large amount of force such as falling from a great height or a powerful contusion to the tendon.  If your tendon is already irritated from repetitive motions causing inflammation, called tendonitis, the tendon will be more prone to damage.  Other conditions such as diabetes, kidney failure, overuse of steroids, tendon weakening antibiotics called fluoroquinolones, or autoimmune inflammatory conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, can increase the rate of incidence of patella tendon rupture.

Treatment for Patella Tendon Rupture

Treatment for a patella tendon rupture is going to vary depending on the grade of the tear.  Partial tears can usually be treated conservatively, and complete tears will require surgical intervention.

Conservative Treatment for Patella Tendon Rupture

Resting and immobilization with a splint until the initial swelling subsides followed with physical therapy to balance and strengthen the knee can be effective in partial tears of the patella tendon.

Surgical intervention for a Ruptured patella Tendon

Complete tears of the patella tendon are going to require surgical correction to regain proper use of the knee for activities as simple as standing and walking.  Surgery will include the reattachment of the tendon to achieve continuity and proper tension of the tendon from the Tibia to the Patella.  The knee will be immobilized for at least six weeks and followed with extensive physical therapy to safely regain flexibility and strength of the joint.

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